BYU students lobby to pass discounted marriage license bill

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BYU student Megan Griffes checks the online petition she created to pass SB54. For the past few weeks, Griffes has been campaigning for the bill to pass. (Savannah Hopkinson)

BYU senior Megan Griffes watched her professor testify at the Utah Capitol last year about a bill that would discount marriage licenses for couples that receive premarital education. Little did she know, just a year later she would be campaigning for the passage of an updated version of the bill. 

Griffes and several other BYU students have become actively involved in the Utah Legislature by lobbying for the passage of SB54. The  bill differs from the original bill logistically but shares the same goal: providing a $20 discount on marriage licenses for couples that invest in premarital education.

“The government makes a huge difference on how we do family because there’s a lot of laws around the family,” Griffes, a family life student, said. “If we can do things that encourage family life education, I need to be part of that because that’s what I want to do for a career.”

Griffes’s involvement with SB54 started a few weeks ago, when her family life professor, Alan Hawkins, asked her to lead a social media campaign to raise public support for the bill.

BYU family life major students Jyllian Sanchez, Megan Griffes and Jarna Knuteson stand in front of the Utah Capitol building on Feb. 1 after attending the committee hearing on SB54. (Megan Griffes)

“You can provide expert testimony on a bill and explain the rationale for all these kind of things, but I think it’s also very important for legislation like this that the legislators see that there is public support,” Hawkins said.

Griffes said the major focus of her campaign is a change.org petition

To promote the petition, Griffes shares the link on various social media groups, presents information about the bill before classes start, coordinates with political clubs on campus and even approaches students between classes.

“When I work especially hard on it one day, the numbers really increase because we’re getting it out through professors and students,” Griffes said. “It’s really exciting to be so involved. I’ve never been this involved in a bill.”

After two weeks, the petition had earned 749 signatures. Many signatures came from BYU students who also support the bill.

“Simple steps taken early can have major positive repercussions down the road,” said Matthew Jensen, a BYU senior studying human development. “Anything we can do to encourage that, we should do.”

Jensen signed the petition. He is the oldest of eight children and said his involvement in his own family motivated him to study family life.

“It feels good to have a chance to stand up and speak out, even in a small way, for something I believe in and feel strongly about,” Jensen said.

Legislation is just one of many ways to support and strengthen the family, according to Jensen.

“A society of happy and productive citizens from happy and productive families is definitely the kind of society I’d want to live in,” Jensen said. “It may be a far-off dream, but it’s something worth working towards through whatever avenues are available to us.”

Family life students are not the only ones signing and sharing the petition. BYU math education student Brooke Parker took premarital classes before getting married in December and now supports SB54.

BYU student Brooke Parker poses with her new husband, Cole, on their wedding day. Parker, along with many other BYU students, is in favor of SB54 and has signed a petition to support its passage. (Becky Gemmell)

“This is just a small way that can make a big difference in strengthening relationships,” Parker said. “For me personally, I think it was worth giving up a total of six hours to learn about things that matter and will hopefully make a big difference in our marriage.”

Griffes, who is pursuing a minor in civic engagement, said the best way to become more involved in public policy and state government is through small things, like signing petitions, attending hearings at the Capitol and volunteering.

“Civic engagement is really important, and it’s really important to know what’s going on around you, but don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed by what you don’t know,” Griffes said. “Just use what you do know and it will build.”

In the coming weeks, Griffes said she will continue to campaign in hopes of reaching at least 1,000 signatures on the petition. The petition will be referenced in a testimony to the House to show public support of SB54.

Griffes said her experience with campaigning and the feeling of support has motivated her to be more involved in the future. The campaign will also count as the capstone project for her civic engagement minor. 

“It makes me really proud that I know I’m doing something that’s going to make a positive change in hopefully lots of other people’s lives, especially future couples,” Griffes said.

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